Calling All Innovators

12/06/2010 01:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It may be hard to believe in these gloomy days, but this is a time of incredible opportunity for our nation's kids. The future looks very bright for people who have a strong grasp of science, technology, engineering and math (often referred to as STEM). So it's nothing short of tragic to see just how many of our kids aren't getting the math and science skills they'll need to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

That's why we at Change the Equation (CTEq) launched a ground-breaking contest among some of the world's most innovative companies to prove just how cool jobs in STEM fields can be. Our STEM is Cool! contest challenged these companies to produce brief videos featuring an employee or group of employees who use STEM in exciting or unexpected ways. (Vote for your favorite video here).

CTEq is the right place to spark this friendly rivalry. We're a non-partisan, nonprofit CEO-led initiative that aims to improve STEM learning opportunities in the United States. Many of our 112 member companies are on the cutting edge of science and technology, so they understand both the promise of innovation and the perils we face if our kids keep falling behind in math and science. They are connecting and aligning their work to transform STEM learning in the United States. One way of doing this is to get kids fired up about the STEM they'll need to thrive in their lives and jobs.

As the 18 video submissions make vividly clear, jobs that require STEM are fun jobs, fascinating jobs, jobs that will change the world.

And they'll be plentiful jobs. Government data show that almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require a firm grounding in STEM.

Especially at a time of high unemployment, it's shocking to imagine that we may not have enough qualified people to fill those vital jobs in the years to come. Yet in 2010, only 43 percent of U.S. high school graduates were ready for college work in math, and a meager 29 percent were ready in science. Meanwhile, students in other countries are leaving ours in their wake.

From Franklin to Ford, from Carver to Cerf, American innovators have helped shape our national identity and fuel our economic vitality for the better part of three centuries. Are we willing to let the days of American ingenuity come to an end? How short-sighted at a time when the STEM fields are so rife with opportunity -- and when so many jobs in STEM are so downright cool!

Watch the videos, and vote for the one you like best. Tell your friends to watch and vote, too. Spread the word about how great a career in STEM can be. With your help, we can get many more American kids on a path to a much brighter future.